Many who live alone are finding things difficult during the lockdown. Yet I often envy them their hours of contemplative serenity and uninterrupted sleep. For there are also challenges involved in sharing your home, as I do, with four kids, two cats, a wife, a mother-in-law and a giant dog.
You can therefore imagine my delight when I recently woke up in the middle of the night with a coughing fit. By the morning, the cough had got much worse. This was certainly a new and continuous cough, I was pleased to note. We follow the coronavirus guidance assiduously in our house. Self-isolation would surely be required, I smugly concluded.
Before breakfast, a test was arranged. I drove to the strange sort of field hospital which has been erected on a local GAA pitch. There, I endured the unpleasant business of having a pointy stick inserted so far up my nose that it prodded my brain. Yet all this was a small price to pay for the profound joy of coming home to settle down under the duvet knowing that nobody could disturb me all day.
Since my room was now a sanctuary, I sadly could not prepare meals or drinks for myself. I had to therefore text my wife and kids for room service. As I reclined in tranquillity watching my first movie, I first texted for a bottle of sparkling water, which was delivered to the door by a suitably deferential mask-wearing kid. Then I ordered a cappuccino, which was also expertly prepared. After a time, I grew weary of movies and so I had room service send up the Sunday papers. That evening, dinner was superb: a delicious marinated steak, with vegetables and gravy. I also ordered seconds, which arrived promptly. Dessert was a little underwhelming, frankly, but the hot chocolate and homemade cookies delivered for supper were sublime.
Being responsibly self-isolated meant that I unfortunately could not help with children’s bedtimes. Nor could I be awoken in the middle of the night when the toddler wet the bed. I therefore slept – uninterrupted – for an astonishing eight hours solid. The next morning was a Monday. The kids were delighted, because while I was awaiting a test result they could not go to school. I was also delighted, since this meant my waiting staff would be on hand to cater to my every whim.
I therefore ordered a delicious bowl of porridge delivered, along with coffee and juice. I also had some fresh pillow cases delivered. I drank my coffee while calmly surveying the woods outside, as each gust sent a scattering of leaves to the ground. The autumn gale thinned the trees, making the scudding sky ever more visible.
My son had taken in baskets of wood from the shed, and the range had been lit. The subtle scent of woodsmoke reached my bedroom, and our old house felt warm to its bones. This time of year is perfect for contemplation, and always takes me back to a reverie of my childhood.
This scene of deep comfort was rudely shattered by a ping from my phone. I glanced to see the words ‘HSE COVID’. For a moment, I was suddenly nervous. What if I did have Covid? After all, I had a temperature and a cough. I was prepared for the worst, while knowing in my rational mind that my mild illness mostly likely had another cause.
The text informed me that “no Covid” had been detected. It was a relief, and yet also a great pity, since it meant that my splendid isolation would have to end – in a while. That would mean no more room service, broken sleep and a return to the pleasantly chaotic normality of sharing a home with nine other busy creatures.